Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

Biggest surprise of the year? No need for a vote because this is definitely it. Truthfully I had no idea that this was even coming out, and it’s already only the third game for which I’ve unlocked all the achievements – not too difficult in this one, admittedly – and has sucked up hours on chasing high scores. No score attack game has had its hooks into me like this since Geometry Wars.

In the pantheon of classic retro arcade games, I’ve always had a soft spot for Pac-Man, and feel that its classic high-score-chasing gameplay has held up better than many of its contemporaries. Really, jazz it up with some HD neon graphics and I’d be pretty happy to pay for that, but the Championship Edition gave it a full modernisation, ramping the speed up to sometimes ridiculous levels, giving it a pumping soundtrack, doubling the maze width, and bringing in a host of new mechanics. This DX edition brings in some new mazes and further tweaks, so it’s one of those convenient follow-ups for latecomers that renders the original redundant.

But even with all the modes and mazes to choose from, I’m happy with the new Championship II on the standard five-minute score attack. That’s where the competitive play is, and although I’m unlikely to reach much beyond my current position, skimming the top 1,000, adding a few thousand to your top score and pushing yourself up the ranking is brilliantly intense. Get much beyond about 1,300,000 points and it becomes necessary to get yourself completely ‘in the zone’, and one mistake can warrant a restart – and you’re still miles off the 2,000,000+ scores at the top of the leaderboard.

I’m not the only one who’s gone head over heels for this game, and even if you’re one of the multitude of Call of Duty addicts, this is highly recommended. The five-minute games lend themselves to quick blasts now and again, with the occasional new high score dangling like a carrot the whole time, and as I’ve jumped between my current playlist of Black Ops, Halo: Reach and Castlevania, it’s become the perfect palate cleanser. Work up those reactions for COD after a spot of adventuring, or relieve the pressure of a hard day’s deathmatching before you go to bed.

Or, more likely, some twerp on my friends list is taunting me about overtaking my high score again…

Black Ops: Dumbest Plot Ever

Seriously, for a game that’s following Modern Warfare 2, that’s saying something.

When this was announced, and given its historical setting, I expected Treyarch to have a bit of fun with the story, but to generally keep it within the bounds of plausibility. Maybe use the Vietnam levels for all-out action, and then be a bit clever with the other ones, having you sneaking into Soviet territory for low-key deniable ops of the kind that the series has done so well before.

What I didn’t expect was full-on invasions of Russia involving deadly chemical weapons, JFK conspiracy theories, a gulag escape involving a minigun – with those in prison camp cupboards, it’s no wonder the Soviet Union fell – and what is essentially the plot of The Manchurian Candidate. And that’s without mentioning the dream characters.

For all the outrageous stupidity of Modern Warfare 2’s plot, that at least had the defence of a near-future setting, but a Call of Duty in a historical scenario has come a long way – backwards, in my opinion – from the days of COD and COD2, when the emphasis was on being a grunt in a unit of grunts, rather than a special forces superhero. That was what the series was supposed to be a move away from, because it’s what everyone else was doing.

Still, good game, isn’t it?